Ezra 6:10
That they may offer sacrifices of sweet smells to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(10) That they may offer sacrifices . . . and pray for the life of the king.—Two ends are to be answered: the God of heaven is to be honoured, and the dynasty of Darius interceded for by the Jews. (Comp. Jeremiah 29:7.)

Of sweet savours.—The word occurs again only in Daniel 2:46, and there is translated “sweet odours,” meaning incense. The connection of this with the prayer following justifies the same translation here, and, moreover, indicates under what good instruction the decree was drawn up.

Ezra 6:10. And pray for the life of the king and his sons — Persuaded that he, whom he once and again reverently calls the God of heaven, was ready to hear and answer his people in all things for which they called upon him, he desires an interest in their prayers for himself and family, and in order that he might obtain it, was kind to them. For though the Jews were not allowed to desire the heathen to pray to their deities for them, because they were forbidden to acknowledge any other gods but one: yet the heathen might with reason ask the Jews to pray to Jehovah for them; because they acknowledged a plurality of gods, and allowed the God of Israel to be really a God, as well as those they themselves worshipped. And the Jews were not prohibited either by reason or revelation from addressing their prayers to God for the heathen, when they were desired by them so to do. What then are we to think of the spirit of those Christians, so called, who hold it unlawful to pray for those whom they denominate heretics, though they are not heathen, but worshippers of the same living and true God, whom they themselves profess to worship? Let them blush when they read this, to think how far the spirit of the Jewish religion excels theirs!6:1-12 When God's time is come for fulfilling his gracious purposes concerning his church, he will raise up instruments to do it, from whom such good service was not expected. While our thoughts are directed to this event, we are led by Zechariah to fix our regard on a nobler, a spiritual building. The Lord Jesus Christ continues to lay one stone upon another: let us assist the great design. Difficulties delay the progress of this sacred edifice. Yet let not opposition discourage us, for in due season it will be completed to his abundant praise. He shall bring forth the head-stone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.This verse gives the words of the decree of Darius, which was grounded upon, and probably recited, the decree of Cyrus. 8-10. of the king's goods, even of the tribute beyond the river … expenses be given unto these men—The decree granted them the privilege of drawing from his provincial treasury of Syria, to the amount of whatever they required for the furthering of the work and providing sacrifice for the service of the temple, that the priests might daily pray for the health of the king and the prosperity of the empire. No text from Poole on this verse. That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven,.... Such as will be acceptable to him, Genesis 8:21

and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons; prayer being wont to be made at the time of the morning and evening incense; and the Jews used to pray for other people besides themselves, and especially when desired, and particularly for kings and civil magistrates, to whom they were subject, see Jeremiah 29:7, the sons of Darius Hystaspis, for whose life, as well as his own, he would have prayer made, were, according to Herodotus (d), three by his first wife, the daughter of Gobryas, before he began to reign, the eldest of which was Artobazanes; which sons must be here meant, since this was towards the beginning of his reign; he had afterwards four more by Atossa the daughter of Cyrus, the eldest of which was Xerxes, who succeeded him: many of the Heathens had an high opinion of the God of the Jews, and of their prayers to him for them; even the Emperor Julian (e) styles him the best of all the gods, and desired the Jews to pray to him for the welfare of his kingdom; nor need it seem strange that Darius should desire the same, since he was a devout prince; his father Hystaspes is supposed by some to be the same that was one of the most famous among the Persian Magi, or ministers in sacred things; and Darius himself had so great a veneration for the men of that sacred order, that he commanded that it should be put upon his sepulchral monument, that he was master of the Magi (f); and by his familiarity with the priests of Egypt, and learning their divinity, had the honour, while alive, to have deity ascribed to him (g).

(d) Polymnia, sive, l. 7. c. 2.((e) Opera, par. 2. ep. 25. p. 153. (f) Porphyr. de abstinentia, l. 4, c. 16. (g) Diodor. Sic. l. 1. p. 85.

That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
10. The king’s special desire, propitiatory sacrifice and intercessory prayer to be offered on behalf of his dynasty.

sacrifices of sweet savours] R.V. sacrifices of sweet savour. One word in the original; it occurs also in Daniel 2:46 ‘Then the king Nebuchadnezzar … worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him’. The expression recalls the ‘burnt offering … of a sweet savour unto the Lord’ (Exodus 29:18; Exodus 29:25; Leviticus 1:9; Leviticus 1:13; Leviticus 1:17; Leviticus 2:2-3; Leviticus 2:9; Leviticus 2:12) which should be compared with Genesis 8:21. This interpretation lays stress upon the acceptableness of the propitiatory offering. Others giving the word a more material sense consider it to mean especially the incense used in offerings (LXX. εὐωδίας; Vulg. oblationes).

pray for the life, &c.] Compare especially Jeremiah 29:7 ‘and seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray unto the Lord for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.’

Allusions to sacrifice and prayer for Gentile rulers will be found also in Bar 1:10-12, where Ezra 6:11 especially should be compared with this passage ‘And pray for the life of Nebuchodonosor king of Babylon, and for the life of Balthasar his son, that their days may be upon earth as the days of heaven’. See also 1Ma 7:33; 1Ma 12:11; 2Ma 3:35; 2Ma 13:23.

and of his sons] i.e. for the prosperity of Darius’s dynasty. We hear of two wives of Darius, Atossa, daughter of Cyrus, and Tarsys, daughter of Smerdis.Verse 10. - That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours. Either incense, as in Daniel 2:46, or "sacrifices that are pleasing and acceptable" (see Genesis 8:21; Numbers 28:2). And pray for the life of the king. The Jews have always maintained the practice of praying for the civil ruler of any country in which they have had their abode. Jeremiah s exhortation to "seek the peace" of Babylon (Numbers 29:7) was understood in this way, and the tradition has been handed down even to the present day. Under monarchs so favour-able to them as the Achaemenian Persians the duty would certainly not have been neglected. And of his sons. In Persia "the royal house" was the special object of regard. Individual kings must die, but the house would go on (see the speech of Artemisia to Xerxes in 'Herod.,' 8:102; and compare the references to the "gods of the royal house" in the Inscriptions). Kings took special care of their sons. Thus Cyrus sent Cambyses back to Persia when he was about to attack the Massagetae ('Herod.,' 1:208), and Xerxes gave several of his sons into the charge of Artemisia, to convey them by ship to Asia, while he himself took the long and perilous journey by land (ibid. 8:103). "And there was found at Achmetha, in the fortress that is in the land of Media, a roll; and thus was it recorded therein." In Babylon itself the document sought for was not found; though, probably the search there made, led to the discovery of a statement that documents pertaining to the time of Cyrus were preserved in the fortress of Achmetha, where the record in question was subsequently discovered. אחמתא, the capital of Great Media - τὰ Εκβάτανα, Judith 1:1, 14, or Ἀγβάτανα (Herod. i. 98) - built by Dejokes, was the summer residence of the Persian and Parthian kings, and situate in the neighbourhood of the modern Hamadan. Achmetha is probably the Old-Median or Old-Persian pronunciation of the name, the letters אחם on Sassanidian coins being explained as denoting this city (Mordtmann in the Zeitschrift der deutsch morgenl. Gesellschaft, viii. p. 14). The citadel of Ecbatana probably contained also the royal palace and the official buildings. For בּגוּהּ is found in some MSS and editions בּגוּהּ; but Norzi and J. H. Mich. have Pathach under ו as the better authorized reading. דּכרונה, stat. emph. of דּכרון, memorandum, ὑπόμνημα, a record of anything memorable. The contents of this document follow, Ezra 6:3-5. First, the proclamation of King Cyrus in the first year of his reign: "The house of God at Jerusalem, let this house be built as a place where sacrifices are offered." The meaning of the words following is doubtful. We translate מסובלין ואשּׁוחי: and let them raise up its foundations, i.e., its foundations are to be again raised up, restored. אשּׁין, foundations (Ezra 4:12); מסובלין, part. Poel of סבל, to carry, to raise (not to be raised). סבל often stands for the Hebrew נשׂא, to carry, to raise up, to erect; compare the Samaritan translation of Genesis 13:10 : וסבל את עגין, he lifted up his eyes. סובל אשּׁין analogous with מוסדי ד קומם, Isaiah 58:12, and signifies to erect buildings upon the foundations.

(Note: The Vulgate, following a rabbinical explanation, has ponant fundamenta supportantia, which is here unsuitable. The conjecture of Bertheau, who labours, by all sorts of critical combinations of the letters in the words מסובלין ואשּׁוחי, to produce the text תמנים מאה אמין אשוהי, "its foundation length 180 cubits," is as needless as it is mistaken. The interpretation of the words in the lxx, καὶ ἔθηκεν ἔπαρμα, and Pseudo-Ezra 6, διὰ πυρός ἐνδελεχους, are nothing else than unmeaning suppositions.)

Expositors are divided as to the dimensions of the new temple, "its height 60 cubits, and its breadth 60 cubits," Antiq. xi. 4. 6; while Solomon's temple was but 30 cubits high, and, without the side-buildings, only 20 cubits broad. We nevertheless consider the statements correct, and the text incorrupt, and explain the absence of the measure of length simply by the fact that, as far as length was concerned, the old and new temples were of equal dimensions. Solomon's temple, measured externally, inclusive of the porch and the additional building at the hinder part, was about 100 cubits long (see the ground plan in my bibl. Archaeol. Table II. fig. 1). To correspond with this length, the new temple was, according to the desire of Cyrus, to be both higher and broader, viz., 60 cubits high, and as many wide, - measurements which certainly apply to external dimensions. Zerubbabel's temple, concerning the structure of which we have no further particulars, was externally of this height and breadth. This may be inferred from the speech of King Herod in Joseph. Ant. xv. 11. 1, in which this tyrant, who desired to be famous for the magnificence of his buildings, endeavoured to gain the favour of the people for the rebuilding of the temple, which he was contemplating, by the remark that the temple built by their forefathers, on their return from the Babylonian captivity, was 60 cubits too low, - Solomon's temple having been double that height (sc. according to the height given in 2 Chronicles 3:4, 120 cubits) - and from the fact that Herod made his temple 100 or 120 cubits high. Hence the temple of Zerubbabel, measured externally, must have been 60 cubits high; and consequently we need not diminish the breadth of 60 cubits, also given in this verse, by alterations of the text, because Herod's temple was likewise of this width, but must understand the given dimensions to relate to external height and breadth. For in Herod's temple the holy places were but 60 cubits high and 20 wide; the holy place, 40 cubits long, 20 wide, and 60 high; the holy of holies, 20 cubits long, 20 wide, and 60 high. And we may assume that the dimensions of Zerubbabel's temple preserved the same proportions, with perhaps the modification, that the internal height did not amount to 60 cubits, - an upper storey being placed above the holy place and the holy of holies, as in Herod's temple; which would make the internal height of these places amount to only about 30 or 40 cubits.

(Note: While we acknowledge it possible that the holy and most holy places, measured within, may have been only 40 cubits high, we cannot admit the objection of H. Merz, in Herzog's Realencycl. xv. p. 513, that 20 cubits of internal breadth is an inconceivable proportion to 60 cubits, this being the actual proportion in Herod's temple, as Merz himself states, p. 516, without finding it in this instance "inconceivable.")

In like manner must the 60 cubits of breadth be so divided, that the 5 cubits internal breadth of the side-buildings of Solomon's temple must be enlarged to 10, which, allowing 5 cubits of thickness for the walls, would make the entire building 60 cubits wide (5 + 10 + 5 + 20 + 5 + 10 + 5).

(Note: The conjecture of Merz in his above-cited article, and of Bertheau, that the dimensions of Zerubbabel's temple were double those of Solomon's, - viz. the holy and most holy places 40 cubits high and 40 wide, the upper chambers 20 cubits high, the side-chambers each 10 cubits high, and the whole building 120 cubits long, - must be rejected as erroneous, by the consideration that Herod's temple was only the length of Solomon's, viz., 100 cubits, of which the holy of holies took up 20, the holy place 40, the porch 10, the additional building behind 10, and the four walls 20. For Herod would by no means have diminished the length of his building 20, or properly 40 cubits. We also see, from the above-named dimensions, that the 60 cubits broad cannot be understood of internal breadth.)

The statement in Ezra 6:4, "three layers of great stones, and a layer of new timber," is obscure. נדבּך means row, layer, and stands in the Targums for the Hebrew טוּר, "used of a layer of bricks;" see Gesen. Thes. p. 311, and Levy, chald. Wrterbuch, ii. p. 93. גּלל אבן, stone of rolling, one that is rolled and cannot be carried, i.e., a great building stone. חדת, novus, as an epithet to אע, is remarkable, it being self-evident that new wood is generally used for a new building. The lxx translates εἷς, reading the word חדה (Ezra 6:3). This statement involuntarily recalls the notice, 1 Kings 6:36, that Solomon built the inner court, ארזים כּרתת וטוּר גזית טוּרי שׁלשׁה; hence Merz expresses the supposition that "this is certainly a fragment, forming the conclusion of the whole design of the building, which, like that in 1 Kings 6:36, ends with the porch and the walls of the fore-court," Thus much only is certain, that the words are not to be understood, as by Fritzsche on 1 Esdr. 6:25, as stating that the temple walls were built of "three layers of large stones, upon which was one layer of beams," and therefore were not massive; such kind of building never being practised in the East in old times. "And let the expenses be given out of the king's house." This is more precisely stated in Ezra 6:8 of the royal revenues on this side the river. נפקא the expense (from נפק, Aphel, to expend), therefore the cost of building.

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